The Stars are missing out on a lot of opportunities lately.
And they're picking an inopportune time to do that.
Of course, it's never good to fumble chances and leave points on the ice, but Dallas is in a crucial stretch against teams they are chasing for a playoff spot in the Central Division, and they keep handing over wins to the opposition. On Saturday, it was a 4-3 OT loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets that keeps the Stars from climbing in the standings and hands a struggling Columbus franchise a huge bouquet of sunshine.
Dallas now falls to 1-6 in games that have gone past regulation. The only team that was worse in the division was Columbus, which now moves to 2-6. Dallas falls to 2-3-6 in one-goal games and 6-7-3 when outshooting opponents.
The Stars had plenty of chances at the end of the third period and in overtime, but simply couldn't convert. Then, with the clock clicking down in the extra session, Columbus took advantage of chaos in the Dallas zone and Zach Werenski flipped in a puck with just under five seconds remaining.
It was another body blow in a season that has been filled with gut punches.
"It's something different every game," Stars coach Rick Bowness said, pointing that Dallas had plenty of chances to score and simply was unable to convert at key moments. Near the end of regulation, Dallas had the puck all around the Columbus net but couldn't get it past goalie Elvis Merzlikins.
Video: DAL@CBJ: Gurianov scores tying goal on the doorstep
"Tonight, we had our chances to score," Bowness said. "There's no room for error. When we get those chances like we had in overtime, you would hope that it would go in. We had some unreal looks at the end of the third period, unreal, and we didn't score. That will always come back to bite you in these one-goal losses."
The Stars last season were 18-9-8 in one-goal games. That was the difference in making the playoffs and missing. This season, the one-goal games might tilt the balance in the other direction.
It's especially frustrating for everyone because the Stars spend long stretches controlling play and looking like the better team. Even with Roope Hintz (lower body) and Alexander Radulov (lower body) out of the lineup, forcing the lines to be reshuffled, the Stars had stretches of dominant possession.
"I thought our game was as good as you're going to get until a couple of executional errors," said forward Andrew Cogliano, who had a goal and an assist. "You can't play much better, but in moments when we need to do the right things and have the right execution, we haven't, and it's cost us."
Ironically, the Cogliano line with Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau had two great plays to help the Stars score goals but then also had a huge breakdown. Cogliano scored late in the first period and then fed Andrej Sekera for a goal that gave the Stars a 2-1 lead. However, Cam Atkinson scored off a faceoff play against the FCC line late in the second period, and Columbus scored a minute later on a broken play.
It was just one more time where a crack in the armor allowed the opposition to grab momentum.
"I thought we had a decent game," Cogliano said of his line. "We had some good moments, but then we give up a goal off of a faceoff and we shouldn't have that as a line. Those are the moments I'm talking about. You have some good plays and you score some goals and your team is controlling the game, and at that moment we need to be better. Not good enough."
Video: DAL@CBJ: Cogliano rifles in wrist shot from circle
Likewise, the offense didn't cash in when it had chances.
Denis Gurianov broke out of a 15-game goalless drought with the game-tying goal, and both Cogliano and Sekera added depth scoring. But Jason Dickinson had seven shot attempts, Jason Robertson had four shots on goal, and Jamie Benn had three shots on goal. Key players had key moments and didn't cash in.
"Were there opportunities to win that in regulation? Absolutely," Bowness said. "When you get the chance to bury those, you've got to bury them."
Otherwise, you'll spend way too much time looking at the standings and wondering how you're going to close the 11 points you're behind the Blackhawks and the six you're behind the Blue Jackets.
"I think we're at a point where we need a win," Cogliano said after losses to Chicago and Columbus. "We've done so many good things, we've outplayed teams, our system is controlling the game, so the system is working. Guys are working hard, and now it just comes down to mentally pushing ourselves over that edge to get a win and get this rolling in that direction, because it's definitely crunch time."
After all, the record is what matters in the long run.
"We can only take so many moral victories at this point," Cogliano said. "We've got to find ways to win."
at Blue Jackets; Sunday 4 p.m. CT
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
TV: FOX Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.